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Film Review: Logan (2017)

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SYNOPSIS:

In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.

REVIEW:

Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holdbrook

The year is 2029, and for all intent and purpose there are no more mutants left on earth, they’ve either been eradicated or just died off naturally. But Logan (aka The Wolverine) is still alive, not doing to well – but alive. And he’s taking care of a now aged & feeble Charles Xavier (aka Professor X), who’s suffering from encroaching dementia. Logan now works as a limo driver for hire, saving as much money as he can in order to buy a boat for Charles and himself to live the rest of their lives out quietly at sea. The trio live in an abandoned farm/iron smelting plant somewhere below the Mexican border, where he’s being assisted in caring for Charles by Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and they believe they’re the last three mutants left on the planet.

They’re wrong.

During one of Logan’s jobs he’s approached by Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a Mexican nurse who tells him that she urgently needs his help. She needs to get herself and her daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen) to South Dakota, and she needs to get there quickly. At first, Logan doesn’t know how she recognizes him, and denies that he’s who she says he is. But eventually she gets him to come to her, and she explains her plight. Logan agrees to take them to where they want to go for $50,000, and arrives the next day to find Gabriela murdered. He promptly leaves, but Laura is hiding in the trunk of his limo. When he gets back home, Caliban immediately knows she’s there (his mutant power is that he can track other mutants). Unfortunately, Logan’s been followed by a man named Pierce (Boyd Holdbrook) and his soldiers. And although they seem to be intimidated by her, they really want Laura to come back with them. Logan is still mystified as to why, but he soon discovers that Laura isn’t just your average little girl as she literally slices her way through Pierce’s men with adamantium claws in both her hands AND her feet.

How she got those claws, why she’s being pursued by Pierce, and why she has to get to South Dakota take up the rest of the film. But what writer (with Michael Green & Scott Frank) and director James Mangold really had in mind is to reinvent the superhero film and turn it into a gritty dystopian western – and he succeeds completely. Logan works on a few different levels, and the script takes pains to humanize Logan and the others. This version of Wolverine isn’t like you’re used to seeing him, he’s older here, and he’s also sick as well – the adamantium in his body has slowly been poisoning him over the years. He has problems with releasing his claws, he has problems healing his wounds also. So this Logan is a man who isn’t looking for a fight, he merely wants to fade away into the ephemera. But his life has never been one where he could just fade away, and meeting Laura only complicates things even further.

This is Jackman’s 10th appearance as Logan, and you’d think by now there’d be nothing left for him to prove. But he gives a really nuanced performance here. Logan is slowly dying, and he knows it, so the trick for Jackman was to humanize the character. Logan has shown shades of humanity in his previous film appearances, but Jackman goes for it all here, and makes Logan one of the most tragic heroes you’ll ever see in a film. He runs the gamut from low key to full on beserker mode (and everything in between). If this is truly his last appearance as the character that made him famous, then he goes out on a high. Young Dafne Keen is absolutely spectacular as Laura. Mute for most of the film, she gives the character life through sheer ferociousness. Laura has no fear, none whatsoever, and Keen makes her one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in a film this year. She’s a little girl whose feral nature is hidden by her appearance. But get on her bad side (which is exceedingly easy to do) and you’re toast. Yet she balances all of the viciousness with a surprisingly tender soft side that debuts in the final third of the film. It’s a truly terrific debut performance. But the best performance in the film comes from Patrick Stewart as Charles. Charles is 90 years old now, and his mind is growing more and more feeble. Complicating matters even more, he’s subject to seizures that affect everyone in his general proximity and the government still classifies his mind as a weapon of mass destruction. Logan keeps the seizures at bay with some medicine, but there’s really no telling when Charles will have another attack.

All of this ends in a showdown in a mountaintop forest that involves Pierce, his boss Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) and his small army of soldiers in a pitched battle against Logan and a group of children that have all been genetically enhanced. I’m not gonna spoil the proceedings with explaining how they ended up there, but I will say that Dr. Rice has a secret weapon that just might be the toughest opponent Logan has ever faced. And while most of you might know how this all ends, I won’t spoil that here either. Suffice it to say that Logan isn’t your standard superhero movie – if it’s even a superhero movie at all. As I said earlier, it’s more of a western with Logan playing the lone gunman who’s minding his own business, and gets into trouble in spite of it. All tech credits are first rate here, and I can’t overstate how great the cast is. I daresay that had this been released later in the year, there might just be some Oscar talk regarding some of the performances here.

Jackman has claimed that this will be his last performance as Logan (although he he’s also said he’d consider returning to the character for an appearance in one of the upcoming Avengers films). If this is so, he leaves the character on a high note, because Logan is easily one of the best superhero films ever produced – and probably one of the best films of the year so far. The only real flaws I could find here are it’s extended running time, and the dreary exposition that Grant’s character goes through nearly every time he’s on camera. Luckily, he’s not on very much at all, so that’s a minor quibble. Logan is first rate entertainment indeed, and it portrays the character in a whole new light. One that’s brave, and more than a bit touching. You’ll like it even if you’re not a fan of superhero films, so see it. Now!

Logan – 4 out of 5 shrouds.

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